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  • How Do Firefox Live Bookmarks and Feedburner Work?

    9 October 2006

    FeedburnerI don’t know about you, but the Feedburner subscriber counts fluctuate all over the place in a period of a week. As you can see in the top left hand side of my sidebar, my counter never stays the same 2 days in a row, and I just can’t figure out why.

    Normally, I try and post everyday. When I do, my counter climbs as I make more posts, and this trend continues per day. However, the day when I don’t post, the subscribership levels appear to plummet (sometimes by upto 30 subscribers). But I just don’t understand why. When a person subscribers to your feed, I assume (if they use Firefox Live Bookmarks), that they click on the RSS icon and that they add the site to their favourites. With feedreaders like Bloglines, then either use a chicklet or add the site directly to the programs. How is it then, that the number of Firefox Live Bookmarkers changes so rapidly. I find it hard to believe that people take the time to unsubscribe to my feed, and then resubscribe a few days later when I make another post. Someone please explain this to me!

    On another note, I’ve noticed that its not just my subscribership levels that have dropped:

    Now while these figures might not be statistically 100% perfect, they do show some slight correlations. Maybe it is because of the weekend period that people unsubscribe from certain blogs, or maybe Firefox Live Bookmarks is working in a way that I’ve not completely worked out yet. Either way, fluctuation is occurring and I want to get to the bottom of it!

    On another note, I did manage to hit my subscribership level of 85 on Friday so that was very pleasing. Unfortunately it seems that I need to constantly post to maintain unique visitors and normal traffic levels, otherwise these figures too seem to plummet. However, I don’t mind at all writing, as Im constantly learning new things about the blogosphere and about other people and their habits.

    15 Responses to How Do Firefox Live Bookmarks and Feedburner Work?

    1. Eric Olson October 9, 2006 at 7:07 pm #

      Hi Adnan,

      There is actually a simple explanation for the changes in your subscriber numbers. We can only track the subscriber we “see” in a given day. If someone doesn’t open their feedreader or live bookmarks than we can’t count them that day and won’t count them on your stats (this excludes web based readers like MyYahoo who will poll for all subscribers whether or not the subscriber opens their MyYahoo page that day). Does that make sense?

      It is for that reason that you also see the weekend dip in your stats. Most people read feeds during the week and then won’t open their readers over the weekend. I know – who are those people? :-) They exist though. Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Eric Olson
      Publisher Services – FeedBurner
      erico@feedburner.com

    2. Rick Klau October 9, 2006 at 8:45 pm #

      Adnan -

      Couple different things at work here. First off, RSS measurement isn’t as precise as website measurement, in large part due to the fact that RSS hits are almost always entirely anonymous. You can’t cookie the vast majority of RSS readers, so we need to look at other things like user agent, polling interval, and IP address to infer repeat visits vs. new visits. We take 24 hour cycles to evaluate your feed’s traffic to establish the likely subscriber count. As a result, it’s far more likely that your numbers will fluctuate a bit day to day.

      As for weekend activity, I’ve heard rumors that some people don’t work on weekends… and as a result their computers are off. When their computers are off, their aggregators don’t poll your feed. (Who are these people, and why aren’t they working?!)

      Now, for Live Bookmarks. Firefox doesn’t identify itself distinctly when it’s a browser viewing the feed vs. an aggregator polling the feed on a regular basis. As a result, we need to try to interpret Firefox’s activity on your feed, something that’s often difficult to do when the feed has a sudden jump in activity. (For instance, when a post gets linked to on BoingBoing, and suddenly thousands of people visit the site, and many click on the feed.) As a result, higher-activity days may generate some traffic to the feed that may look like subscriber activity (but which is actually one-time views of the feed in the browser). We’re always trying to refine how we measure these particular cases, and as a result of this, some browsers (like IE7) are actually identifying themselves differently depending on what *kind* of access the feed request is.

      Needless to say, there are a number of moving parts here. If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. Thanks!

      –Rick
      VP, Publisher Services
      FeedBurner

    3. adnan October 9, 2006 at 9:08 pm #

      Awesome thanks you guys for your comments – now this is customer service!

      Oh right, I didn’t realise that this was how your stats work – so thanks a lot for sharing that. Everything makes a lot more sense now. So that means that its basically complete fluke how many people are opening there live bookmarks and feeds. So supposing there is a powercut in USA, then it will look as if I have only 20 subscribers – with the rest being Firefox Live Bookmarks, and the 20 being part of MyYahoo or BlogLines, which automatically count as part of the count anyway. Am I correct? :)

      As for the weekend, I can’t believe that people actually go home from work lol! Anyway, thanks a lot Eric and Rick for getting back to me in such uber-quick time. I really appreciate it.

    4. Eric Olson October 10, 2006 at 3:48 am #

      If I understand what you wrote correctly than you are correct. We can only count the people we “see” in a given day.

      - Eric

    5. Dave Starr October 10, 2006 at 6:08 am #

      Nice of Rick to stop by and explain so many things. I have to explain Feedburner has been a complete mystery to me.

      At the risk of sounding like an Internet Explorer apologist (I do use FireFox as my primary browser) I’d have to chime in though and state that IE 7.0 and other lower number ‘add on’ browsers have live bookmarks also … so you may well have non-FF, non-Feedburner “live” readers.

    6. Ray Dotson October 10, 2006 at 11:22 am #

      Great explanations and great customer service. I’m impressed!

    7. Rick Klau October 10, 2006 at 2:19 pm #

      Dave – You’re right, IE7 and others support feed reading, but in IE7′s case, it identifies itself differently when it’s viewing the feed in the browser vs. polling the feed as a subscriber. Consequently, we’re able to much more easily differentiate between browsers and subscribers.

      Nevertheless, if there’s every anything that we seem to be misinterpreting, let us know.

      –Rick

    8. adnan October 10, 2006 at 8:19 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up Eric.
      Lol yeah it was really nice of Eric and Rick to stop by and let us know about these problems – and I hadn’t even contacted them! Did you find Blogtrepreneur through Technorati linking to Feedburner guys?

      And Rick – thanks for verifying the IE7 issue for Dave. Why can’t all the online companies be like this – they should take a leaf out of Feedburner’s book! :)

    9. Rick Klau October 10, 2006 at 8:23 pm #

      Adnan – yeah, we monitor Technorati pretty religiously, and I use CoComment to keep up on conversations I’ve joined so that I don’t drop in and forget to follow-up. :)

      We’re happy to help – we wouldn’t be here if our users didn’t like our service and encourage us to improve, so it seems only fair to keep a close eye on what everyone’s saying (whether on their own blogs or on our forums)!

      –Rick

    10. Adrian Larsen October 11, 2006 at 6:12 am #

      Hey!

      I love your site. I have been trying to create something similar of my own for a while, but studies and work take up too much time!

      If someone is interested I am selling off my domains!

      Have a nice day!

    11. adnan October 11, 2006 at 10:05 pm #

      Lol nice one Rick. It can sometimes be quite a chore to keep up with all the good blog convo’s that you’ve participated in – Im glad to see you’ve figured out a way of keeping on top of it all. I would subscribe to comments (like you can here on Blogtrepreneur), but I don’t like getting my inbox clogged up. Each to their own I suppose. Good luck with Feedburner – as far as I know you guys are growing non-stop.

      Thanks Adrian – yeah studies are important but you’ve gotta find time in your life for everything. I find writing here is pretty relaxing and can take away the strains of coursework and homework in the week! Thanks for letting us know about your domains, and good luck with your entrepreneurial adventures and enjoy it :)

    12. Mariam October 19, 2006 at 10:00 pm #

      I am just trying out the new release of IE7, and find it interesting all the debate about this release versus the Firefox download. One of the most interesting aspects of the IE vs. Firefox battle is the development of the ecosystem of extensions or add-ons. It’s not just about bugs and features. Right now Firefox had a great advantage in this space but you can see Microsoft trying to catch up.
      I noticed an interesting extension called Trailfire, set up as a recommended download for IE7. See link:

      http://www.ieaddons.com/SearchResults.aspx?keywords=trailfire

      I think the ecosystem for Firefox and IE will decide who wins this battle. What do you think?

    13. Durkin March 25, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

      I was wondering about this for weeks and now its finally been solved! the first comment is very useful :)

      Thanks for posting this

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